The confinement helping you may have found yourself introduced quite brutally to remote working. A world where you can attend a meeting in pajamas and don’t have to commute to get to the office.
But with great freedom comes great responsibilities and without the right tools and mindset, you will find yourself pretty soon overwhelmed with a pile of work to get through and too many conf-calls and… distractions -AAAH Netflix! - to get it done.
There’s a lot to be said for remote work, whatever the circumstances if you find yourself working remotely, you can achieve great results and be laser-focused if you are well prepared with the right digital tools and tackle procrastination.
Don’t blame your kids, the TV, or your colleague your worst enemy during your remote journey is YOU.
Without the right discipline, you will pretty soon miss the office this great place for gossip and bad coffee.
This post is intended to give you a set of tips and tools to keep the collaboration going when working remotely.
Vision and Goals
Whether you are the sole remote worker (like a freelancer) or a member of a decentralized team, you and your team must know where you’re heading. With remote work more than ever, make sure everyone is aware of the project’s vision and goals and try to keep it visible.
Set short, middle and long-term goals according to your timeline and industry.
Adopting an agile framework like SCRUM can be a The office can be a great place to bond with colleagues and collaborate but there may be times when you just need to be more productive! great way to do so working in sprints, you make sure everyone has a shared understanding of what the goal for the sprint ahead is.
Remote Work Communication
Lack of communication is lethal for any organization, and the urge for an instant flow of information is higher than ever for a decentralized team.
That’s why communication tools are hugely important when working remotely. Whether you need to jump on a quick call, need to show progress, or are a planning session or retrospective, make sure you choose a tool that keeps the communication channel open, allows you to see your colleagues, and preferably allows you to share your screen.
Recommended Communication Tools:
Slack has remote work in its DNA; it’s an awesome tool for technology teams, allowing you to create private or group chats, share and pin important documents, add private notes to yourself and keep track of everything. And, particularly relevant for this article, your visible status can be set to “Working remotely” amongst other things.
One thing to avoid with digital communication is the overdose, having a fully booked agenda and meetings about everything and anything is counterproductive.
Indeed, working remotely can’t replace working in the same place as your team means and building personal relationships which are crucial when it’s time to make important decisions.
But don’t try to replicate this online with constant contact, instead plan periodical casual meetings where you can all hang out together and build tight bonds.
Remote Work and Keeping Track of Time
While being located in Paris I had to manage a team in San Francisco, and our meetings went like this:
They didn’t want to embarrass me with late meetings, so all our meetings happened during office hours (starting from 3 pm).
As a result, I had sleepy people, unprepared, not ready to go video… a real mess.
We could solve that together by finding the perfect timeslot 18:30 Paris time, and I just needed a 30min break before to free my mind from a busy day and get ready for the call.
Understanding the time difference is key to organizing and scheduling meeting. If your team is working in a different time zone, make sure you have all the answers you need before they wrap up for the day. Bear in mind they may start their day midway of yours and you don’t want to get stuck.
Organizing and Prioritizing
“I didn’t know I had to do that!”
Does that sound familiar? Lost documents and to-do lists with no allocation. Aim to have a single place where all the work is listed and prioritized and make sure it’s allocated, and everyone knows what they need to do.
Tools like JIRA, or Trello can help you organize, prioritize and allocate work. It’s also important that everyone is aware of dependencies so that they don’t get stuck.
We at the team use ASANA, their free plan is fully sufficient for basic project management, and allow enough freedom to build your organization.
Another tip is to keep all docs related to a specific piece of work in a single place: designs, specifications, requirements, acceptance criteria, etc. If you work with user stories, for example, make sure all the info needed is documented in the relevant story.
Here are some tools you can use:
If you work with code (I guess you do), you can use Zeplin to increase collaboration between designers and the development team. Make sure you link to the designs from the relevant work card or user story.
Google docs is a great tool to collaborate with your copywriters. You can access it from anywhere, overwrite with comments or suggestions, and have the latest version always available. The combo Google form + Google sheets is very powerful to gather and store data entries then organize them or even use them for statistics.
But if you need something more elaborated think of Airtable, and turn your spreadsheet into a smart database with tons of integrations.
It’s crucial that you get the handover process right when working remotely. Building a culture is as much important as the result, so make sure that everyone understands the global picture and the role in this scheme.
Whatever solution you adopt, project management tool you’re using (where you can list all related docs), video calls or interactive prototypes select the best mix for your team, make sure everyone has a shared understanding of what they’re doing stays focus and passionate.
You can use the tools above to communicate and handover work to your team, but if the work ahead requires a lot of detail and explanation try using a tool like QuickTime (with some imagination Powerpoint and Google Slides can do the job too) to record a session that features an interactive prototype and voice-over with relevant information–the team will be able to revisit the record whenever in doubt.
The Remote Work Attitude
A get-shit-done attitude and the right set of tools will overcome the distance and let you collaborate with your team almost as if you were sitting side by side.
Adopt healthy professional as well as personal habits, keep family time (for instance I never skip a diner with my family whatever emergency I have).
Identify a clear spot in your house as your “office” this can be your kitchen table…you’ll see how it is refreshing to transgress this rule from time to time and … work on the sofa!
Do jump on calls whenever you’re in doubt and prefer texting for short Q&A (we use a WhatsApp group for the ease of use, but you have plenty of choice according to your team’s habits).
Try, as much as you can, to meet your team face to face to build on relationships, this is pretty easy if you live in the same region, but even if you live in the other side of the globe one or two annual meetings can do wonders!
If you know of any other tools to make working remotely easier, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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